Sunday, January 21, 2018

Situational Awareness

October 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Manna, Going Global, Monthly Articles

Costa Rica is a beautiful country. It’s the only place I have ever seen fence posts bud and begin to grow into trees again. The beaches are pristine—some black from decades of volcanic ash mixing with the white sand. But even the most beautiful place has a dark side. For the first few months of language study I lived close enough to the school to be able to walk to my classes. During my last few months, I moved out to a suburb of San Jose called Escazú and had to go into town on the bus. While I was living in Escazú, I was contacted by a couple from one of our churches in western Canada. They were planning a vacation in Costa Rica and wanted to have dinner with me while they were in San Jose. I took the bus into town, located their hotel and had a nice visit with them. At the end of the evening, my host offered to walk me back to the bus terminal. The hotel was not in the best part of town and I was grateful that he had asked. As students, and foreigners, we seldom went out at night and had been endlessly warned about being careful about our personal security.

We had to walk up a long hill to get to the center of town. As we started up I could see two men coming down the hill toward us. Something prompted me to caution my companion. I took a tighter grip on the strap of my shoulder bag. We kept going and they kept coming. When they got up to us, the pair split; one went to the left of us and the other to the right. As the youth passed me, he grabbed for my bag. Because I was prepared, when he yanked in one direction I yanked in the other. I kept the purse and he took off running down the street. I turned, almost ready to pursue him and was surprised when he slowed, stopped, and then turned around to look back at us.

For what seemed like an age, I looked down the street to where the would-be purse snatcher was standing. I had considered chasing him. But something prompted me to pause. I looked over at my

 companion and to my surprise the other youth was still standing right beside him. He said nothing. He did nothing. He simply stood there. He either had no idea what his friend was planning on doing and was as shocked as we were—something I doubted, or there was another plan being hatched. Now, many years later, I wonder if some unseen hand held him in place and prevented him from doing whatever else he might have been plotting. But at the time, the thought crossed my mind that the boy standing beside my host was a greater danger than the one who seemed to be taunting us from the end of the street.

It also crossed my mind that if either of us chased the youth at the bottom of the hill, we would be dividing our forces and leaving both of us vulnerable. We decided to walk away. I honestly don’t remember what happened to the young man standing beside my host, or to the boy at the bottom of the hill. We simply turned and continued on our way to the bus terminal.

As I look back at this slice of my life, I am reminded that sometimes the greatest danger doesn’t come from where I expect it to come. Initially I thought the person trying to steal my purse was the greater problem, but the real danger was probably far closer at hand. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Often, and rightly so, we are concerned with the assaults that come to us from outside of ourselves. What others do, and tempt us to do, is a real danger. It’s true, we need to resist that part of the world that leads us away from being what God wants us to be. However, the Lord warned His disciples that there was a real danger that they needed to be aware of that was much closer. In Mark 7, He tells His followers: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (7:20-23, NIV).

It was because the greatest threat to our spiritual well-being lies much closer to home than we often imagine that the psalmist wrote these famous words: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24, NIV).

If the threat close at hand is neutralized, it could very well be that the more distant danger will simply fade away into the night.

Lynda is a missionary, speaker, educator, writer, editor, and cat lover. She was born and raised in Timmins, the heart of gold mining country in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Lynda has served with Fellowship International for more than thirty years, first in Colombia, a brief stint on home staff in Toronto, Ontario and, more recently in Venezuela. She is currently on staff at First Baptist Church in Timmins, Ontario where her primary focus is spiritual formation. The author of Divine Design for Daily Living, a 365 day devotional journey through the entire Bible (published in Spanish and English), Lynda blogs , maintains her own website , and has been seconded by Fellowship International to serve on the Communications team of The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada.

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3 Responses to “Situational Awareness”
  1. Such a powerful lesson, Lynda. My real danger rests in a stubborn will. Your picture gives me the desire to be willing to be willing. There were a couple of other items of beauty in Costa Rica: Your feet 🙂 What a wonderful life of service.

  2. Lynda Schultz says:

    It’s been incredible, Nancy. I can hardly believe all the privileges God has blessed me with over these years.

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